Welcome back to 1991!

Actually, the story begins in 1990, when Tony Jedlovsky and Brian Orr decided to make one of the first multi-player Tetris games. Well, at least one of the first where you play as a team, and can play up to 4 players at once.

Tony and Brian were both in high school and learning 8086 assembler, and decided that making a Tetris game would be fun. So off they went.

The boys decided up front that the game shouldn't get faster as the players passed levels (like the original Tetris), firstly because they really wanted to focus on smooth animation. The pieces should drop smoothly (even on 4 Mhz 8086 systems) and not choppy like other Tetris games of the time. Secondly, it became obvious that working as a team in Tetris is less about speed and instincts, and more about trying solve a real-time puzzle together. So the levels became harder by the introduction of new pieces at each level. The pieces start out innocently enough, but as you increase in levels they get much more difficult.

How it was coded and produced

The game was coded in assembler (using Borland's Turbo Assembler and "Q Edit", a simple text editor of the time), and the setup program was written in Pascal.

Both programmers also created various graphics, backgrounds and animations for the game in a paint program of the day called Splash. Tony painfully created the bomb explosion animation frame by frame, with no frame of reference, except testing it in the game itself.

The music for the game was composed by Brian in ROL format, and each of the 26 levels has it's own original piece of music designed for the Adlib sound card. You can read all about the music and download the soundtrack for free here. The sound effects required a SoundBlaster audio card and were recorded with the cheapest of the cheap Radio Shack microphone directly into VOC format, with no editing or effects.

Then what, did they sell it?

Tony and Brian realized they had a very polished game. It wasn't just a demo or flakey game: people that played it truly seemed to enjoy it. So they sent the game to various software game publishers at the time. (One version of the game even had the infamous "Accolade" logo, complete with a red 3x1 Tetris piece animating through the logo.)

However, after many months and letters from attorneys from game publishers, the response was the same: no one wanted a Tetris clone. There were too many (apparent) legal issues with the Tetris brand, and no company wanted to open up a legal can of worms.

In fact, one company even mentioned that if Tony and Brian release it as freeware (or public domain, as it was called in the day), legal action could be taken against them. It got them scared - these boys were still kids really, barely 16 years old.

And there it sat on the proverbial shelf

Things are a lot different these days. You can make freeware. Software can be made open source. You can make websites and blogs about what you're working on and create a community of people that might be interested in what you are creating.

Well, back then the guys didn't have any of this. So there the game sat, on floppy discs for many years. Sure, it was played off and on by friends, and friends of friends who got their hands on the game. It even made it to parties and team building exercises into a few large corporations where Tony and Brian have worked!

Ironically, a year after they showed Teamtris to other game publishers, Tetris clones continued to be released. In fact, many of them now had the concept of 'bombs' - before Teamtris, Tony or Brian never had seen a Tetris game with this concept. Were bombs invented in Teamtris and copied by other Tetris games? No one knows for sure.

And apparently there was another game called "Teamtris" that was made a few years later. This wasn't created by Tony and Brian, and has no relation to their version of Teamtris.

Why release it now?

Well there are a few reasons. Tony and Brian have been urged by others to re-release it, since it still is a fun game even though it was written for MS-DOS over 20 years ago. It's a great game to play at parties (if you have more than 4 people, try rotating out players each level), and the soundtrack is infectious.

But there are also die-hard Tetris players out there, fans of retro-games, game collectors, and MS-DOS fanatics that would all love to get their hands on a unique spin on the classic puzzle game.

Is there a web app or iPhone version coming?

No...unless you would like to volunteer to create one!

What if I would like to contact the authors?

Feel free to leave a note on Brian Orr's blog if you have any questions or comments about Teamtris.

Graphics and site design by Brian Orr